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The public health burden of alcohol is unevenly distributed across the life course, with levels of use, abuse, and dependence increasing across adolescence and peaking in early adulthood. Here, we leverage this temporal patterning to search for common genetic variants predicting developmental trajectories of alcohol consumption. Comparable psychiatric evaluations measuring alcohol consumption were collected in three longitudinal community samples (N = 2,126, obs = 12,166). Consumption-repeated measurements spanning adolescence and early adulthood were analyzed using linear mixed models, estimating individual consumption trajectories, which were then tested for association with Illumina 660W-Quad genotype data (866,099 SNPs after imputation and QC). Association results were combined across samples using standard meta-analysis methods. Four meta-analysis associations satisfied our pre-determined genome-wide significance criterion (FDR < 0.1) and six others met our ‘suggestive’ criterion (FDR <0.2). Genome-wide significant associations were highly biological plausible, including associations within GABA transporter 1, SLC6A1 (solute carrier family 6, member 1), and exonic hits in LOC100129340 (mitofusin-1-like). Pathway analyses elaborated single marker results, indicating significant enriched associations to intuitive biological mechanisms, including neurotransmission, xenobiotic pharmacodynamics, and nuclear hormone receptors (NHR). These findings underscore the value of combining longitudinal behavioral data and genome-wide genotype information in order to study developmental patterns and improve statistical power in genomic studies.
The importance of including developmental and environmental measures in genetic studies of human pathology is widely acknowledged, but few empirical studies have been published. Barriers include the need for longitudinal studies that cover relevant developmental stages and for samples large enough to deal with the challenge of testing gene–environment–development interaction. A solution to some of these problems is to bring together existing data sets that have the necessary characteristics. As part of the National Institute on Drug Abuse-funded Gene-Environment-Development Initiative, our goal is to identify exactly which genes, which environments, and which developmental transitions together predict the development of drug use and misuse. Four data sets were used of which common characteristics include (1) general population samples, including males and females; (2) repeated measures across adolescence and young adulthood; (3) assessment of nicotine, alcohol, and cannabis use and addiction; (4) measures of family and environmental risk; and (5) consent for genotyping DNA from blood or saliva. After quality controls, 2,962 individuals provided over 15,000 total observations. In the first gene–environment analyses, of alcohol misuse and stressful life events, some significant gene–environment and gene–development effects were identified. We conclude that in some circumstances, already collected data sets can be combined for gene–environment and gene–development analyses. This greatly reduces the cost and time needed for this type of research. However, care must be taken to ensure careful matching across studies and variables.
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